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The most influential African-Americans in golf in 2019

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On this, the last day of Black History Month, it’s a time to reflect on the achievements that African-Americans have made to the game of golf. We take a moment to honor the accomplishments of George Grant (inventor of the wooden tee), John Shippen (first African-American to play in the U.S. Open), William Powell (first African-American to build, own and operate a golf course),  Charlie Sifford (first African-American on the PGA Tour) and many more.

From Clyde Martin to Calvin Peete, people of color have made an indelible impact on the history of the ancient game. The tradition continues today, with a group of African-Americans that carry the torch for the players of tomorrow. They come from different places on the map and arrived at the game in different ways. But there is no denying the influence they have and their singular ability to use it. Congratulations to the 2019 Most Influential African-Americans in Golf.

Junior Bridgeman

An All-American and NBA All-star basketball player, Bridgeman went on to become a highly successful restaurant entrepreneur. In 2008 he was named to the PGA of America Board of Directors.

Lee Elder

Elder broke the color line at Augusta, becoming the first African American to play in the Masters tournament in 1975. Playing with style and courage despite the many death threats he received that week, Elder missed the cut that year.  But made his mark on the game, notching four wins on the PGA Tour and eight on the Champions Tour. Elder was also the first African-American to play in the Ryder Cup. He was just named the 2019 winner of the Bob Jones Award, the USGA’s highest honor. His omission from the World Golf Hall of Fame is a travesty that should be corrected while the 84-year old Elder is still alive to appreciate it.

Damon Hack

A seasoned journalist who has worked for some of the most prestigious publications in the country, Hack is a familiar face in the morning for millions of homes as the co-host of Golg Channel’s, “The Morning Drive”.

Sheila Johnson

After co-founding the entertainment colossus Black Entertainment Television, Johnson turned her keen business eye on the destination golf business. Her holdings include some of the most coveted golf destinations in the U.S., including Innisbrook Resort in Tampa, Florida, which hosts the PGA Tour each on its famed Copperhead course each Spring. Johnson has also been in a strong presence in the leadership of the USGA and a generous contributor to charity through her golf endeavors.

 

Renee Powell

A pioneer on many levels, Powell comes from a family of trailblazers; her father was the above-mentioned William Powell of Clearview Golf Club in Ohio. She became a world-class player in her own right, and an advocate for equality on and off the golf course.  Among her many accolades are an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of St Andrews in 2008. In 2015, was invited to become one of the first women members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.

Erwin Raphael

As Chief Operating officer of Genesis Motor Company, Raphael is the driving force behinds the company’s name sponsorship of the PGA event hosted by the Tiger Woods Foundation each year at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles.

Condoleeza Rice

Rice has made her mark in politics, business and academia. After a life of exceptional achievement, Rice took up golf at age 50 and has never looked back. She is an avid player, often participating in some the best-known Pro-Ams. And she is a member at a little club in Augusta, Georgia…

Darius Rucker

Rucker achieved fame with the band Hootie & the Blowfish and then as a solo artist. His global appeal along with his passion for the game just got him named an official ambassador of the PGA .

Ron Townsend

A media mogul and self-described golf nut, Townsend made history when he became the first African-American member at Augusta National Golf Club.

Tiger Woods

Considered by many the greatest player of all time, Woods has made his mark in countless ways. His fearless and relentless style of play has spawned a generation of imitators on every professional tour. His fan appeal has drawn people of all races and creeds to golf, with golf courses now present on every county on earth where there is soil. Maybe his most lasting contribution was to golf’s bottom line. For example, Woods turned professional in 1996; the leading money winner for the year was Tom Lehman with $1,780,000 spread over 22 events. For his win at the 2019 WGC Championship in Mexico, Dustin Johnson earned $1,745,000. Mic drop.

Harold Varner III

At the age of 28, Varner has already notched two worldwide victories. Despite his relatively small stature he is one of the longer hitters on the PGA Tour. With a stockpile of talent and a grinder’s mentality, Varner is sure to be a fixture on the professional golf scene or years to come.

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Peter

    Mar 2, 2019 at 6:40 pm

    Michael – you were the wrong person to write this article, as you very much deserve a place on the list!

  2. Sully Smith

    Mar 1, 2019 at 8:57 am

    I think Lee Elder would have had a better first showing at the Masters if reporters would have left him alone at some point so he could focus on his game. If you are going to include Tiger Woods why not Cameron Champ? Also, Harold Varner III is on the PGA Tour, not his dad, Harold Varner Jr. Thanks!

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Opinion & Analysis

Chat with a (soon-to-be) PGA Tour champion: Sam Ryder

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From 2003 through 2008, I had a side job as a high school golf coach for Bishop Moore High School in Orlando, Florida. One of the kids to come up through the ranks during my tenure at Bishop Moore was a young man named Sam Ryder. Now, at 29 years of age, Sam is in his sophomore season on the PGA Tour, qualifying by way of his second-place finish in the standings on the 2017 (then) Web.com Tour.

Ryder played on the PGA Tour Canada in 2014 and 2015. In 2015, he finished fourth in the PGA Tour Canada Order of Merit earning a place on the Web.com Tour for 2016.

In July 2017, Ryder had his first Web.com win, at the Pinnacle Bank Championship, finishing eight strokes ahead of the field. He finished second in the 2017 Web.com Tour regular season rankings to gain a place on the PGA Tour for 2018.

In his rookie campaign on the PGA Tour, Sam had a T2 finish at the John Deere, a fifth-place finish at the Houston Open and a T7 at the Barbasol Championship. He finished the year ranked 101 in the FedEx Cup Race.
This year, despite battling an injury, Sam has a third at the Shriners, a T4 at the Safeway and just last week, a T18 at the John Deere. He is currently ranked 92nd in the FedEx Cup standings and 190th in the World Golf Rankings.

I recently caught up with Sam to chat about his run-up to the PGA Tour and all the various experiences that go along with that.

So, let’s go back to your Bishop Moore days…when I was coaching my last year of vrsity, I think you were a junior. Sean took over your senior year. Curious, if back then, did you aspire of playing professionally?

SR: Generally, yes, I think I always saw myself playing baseball growing up. I wanted to be a professional in Major Leagues. When I turned to golf, I continued the path. I have always thought, “Why put in the effort if you don’t have a means to an end?” Without putting the goal on paper, it was always the end goal: to see how far I can go.

How about your years at Stetson? How did that play into your development as a future PGA Tour star?

SR: Stetson was my only Division 1 scholarship offer, and actually the only school I applied to. I knew I wanted to give golf a shot. Playing Division 1 in Florida was going to give me my best opportunity to get better.

At what point during your rise through the Canadian and Web.com did you really feel like you had what it took to play full time on the PGA Tour?

SR: I’ve always just wanted to see how good I can get. I love the game of golf, so it’s easy for me to work hard. I never knew if I was going to be a failed pro who never made it on tour or make it to number one in the world. But I’ve always been driven by the competitive nature of the sport and wanting to see where I “stack up” so to speak.

What was the most eye-opening part of playing full time on the PGA Tour for you?

SR: I think the biggest challenge of being a PGA Tour rookie is trying to learn all of the new golf courses. Everything about being a rookie on Tour is setting you up to be uncomfortable. Rookies are really behind the eight-ball when they get out there. Until you’re able to get into a routine and develop a level of comfort it’s hard to expect good results. I wanted to stay true to my approach for the most part. I earned my way on the PGA Tour and knew I was good enough based on the success I had on the Web.com Tour. I’m always trying to get better, but I wanted to do it my way, the way that got me there. It’s really easy to try to be someone you’re not when you get on Tour.

You have been in contention multiple times on the weekend and deep into a Sunday, what have you taken as the biggest positive from those experiences and what do you feel you still need to work on in regard to notching that first win?

SR: Biggest positive: playing well in big-time pressure moments. I haven’t really “lost” an event, so to speak. I have come from behind to make a good push. Knowing that when I am in these situations, and the adrenaline is going, I am able to hit the shots and make the putts. It gives me confidence that I am not going to fold in a pressure situation.

Something that everyone is always working on, including Tiger Woods, is to stay in the moment. As cliche as that is, it is a constant struggle to focus on the task at hand. Don’t get too high or low- treat each shot for what it is…

As a PGA Staff Professional with Cleveland/Srixon for several years, I know how great the equipment is with them. What had you join their team as a staff Tour Professional?

SR: I’ve been with Cleveland since I turned pro in 2012-13, they were the first manufacturer to approach me, and I love their equipment from the ball to the wedges and now the irons and driver.

What currently are you and your coach working on?

SR: Having missed significant time due to injury recently, we are just working on a lot of the same things I have been working on, my swing doesn’t change much. Right now, distance control with the irons and wedges is a focus.

Any veteran Tour members welcome you as a new member when you first came out? Kind of show you the ropes.

SR: Former player, Fulton Allem, gave me advice about managing strengths and weaknesses. Some players get so consumed with their weakness that they lose their strengths. Other players maximize their strengths and have awareness and the ability to monitor and play around their weaknesses. That goes along with the importance of staying true to your identity as a player as opposed to trying to be someone you’re not.

Chris DiMarco has been a mentor to me, growing up in the Orlando area. He has been able to provide guidance and support over the past few years, as I navigate my first years on TOUR.

For the most part veteran players as a whole have been accommodating and welcoming and are happy to share knowledge along the way.

So, what’s a typical work week look like for you? Tournament week and non?

SR: Tournament Weeks are pretty consistent…

Monday- is usually a travel day and I make a point to good work out in that day, as it’s a day off from golf Tuesday- I play nine holes
Wed- Pro-am
I go to the gym every day before I go to the course, just to get my body warmed up. Thursday and Friday rounds alternate AM/ PM tee times. I get up three hours before regardless of the time of the round, just to get body ready.

Non-Tournament Weeks…
When I am home, I go to the gym with my trainer, Alex Bennet @ TPC Sawgrass performance center 5/6 times per week. Usually, Monday and Tuesday are days off from golf, to give my body a rest.

I practice on Wed/ Thursday and play money games with other TOUR players on the weekend, to keep my game sharp and prepare for the high stakes the next week. I live less than a mile from the beach, and I enjoy going there to relax. I spend time visiting friends too.

You’ve become somewhat of a fashion icon on tour…what is your take on style and dress on Tour? It seems like a big thing for an observer from this side of the ropes…a way of self-marketing perhaps or standing out from the pack?

SR: I definitely care about my style on the golf course. I’m certainly not afraid to make a little bit of a fashion statement and wear things other players may not be willing to wear. The clothes I wear can definitely contribute to some added confidence, and confidence is one of the most important components to playing good golf.

Curious on your take of the health of golf in general?

SR: I think it’s great. The game of golf is in a good spot. I think Tiger Woods being relevant is massively important to the game, it brings sponsors and more viewers to the game. There is a great crop of young players right now. It is in a healthy, sustainable spot. Jay Monahan really has the TOUR moving in a good direction.

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The 19th Hole: Gary Player, Irish ambassadors talk Open in Northern Ireland

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Hall of Famer Gary Player returns to the 19th Hole to talk about the Championship, his record and his favorites to win this year. Also features Irish Ambassador to the U.S. Dan Mulhall and Northern Ireland Consul Director Norman Houston.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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TG2: Up early watching The Open Live! SPOILER ALERT!

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Rob talks Knudson into getting up WAY early to watch The Open Championship. Talking about live play, Darren Clarke’s hair, and how Rory started his day. Definitely spoilers, so don’t listen if you are recording!

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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